The Commission of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States paid tribute to the outgoing Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba accredited to Saint Lucia and the OECS, H E Alejandro Simancas, with a virtual ceremony held in honour of his service to the region.Director General of the OECS, Dr Didacus Jules, in a heartfelt tribute to the Ambassador and the government and people of Cuba, revisited the history of brotherhood between the nations of the Caribbean basin and renewed calls on the United States administration to end the unfair treatment towards Cuba.
“Between Cuba and the Caribbean, and with us in the OECS, the bond is unshakeable. Your Patria, Cuba, has faithfully followed the dictum of Jose Marti that “it is necessary to make virtue fashionable”. It has unhesitatingly and consistently given to the Caribbean and to every corner of the world where the sick need to be attended to; where the darkness of illiteracy needs to banished; where oppression needs to be defeated.
The presence of Cuba in the OECS is not simply a diplomatic presence. Cuba is present in the hearts of our people because so many of our youth have attained university education, so many of our blind have had their sight restored, so many more see in Cuba a sister whose love is unconditional.
That is why our solidarity with Cuba is non-negotiable and that is why we call on President Biden as he seeks to restore civility and international credibility to the United States of America, to end the punitive blockade of Cuba and remove Cuba from the infamous list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
It was President Obama in the Obama-Biden administration who famously said “you cannot shake hands with a clenched fist”. President Biden please take your knee off the throat of Cuba, open the fist, shake hands with our sister Cuba and let us restore respect, dialogue and good relations in the entire hemispheric family.”
The celebratory virtual ceremony was well attended by dignitaries from the OECS Member States and provided an opportunity for regional leaders to express gratitude to the government and people of Cuba for their unwavering support.
His Excellency Alejandro Simancas Marin sincerely acknowledged and thanked the OECS Commission and its Member States for the steady support provided during his tenure: “Brothers and sisters, it is really a great honour for us to share this moment with you. Farewells are always part of the diplomatic dynamic but, in this case, it is really an emotional moment for us.
It has been a little more than two years of intense work together, which has allowed us to humbly contribute to our bilateral relationship, something that really fills us with satisfaction and pride.”
The Ambassador also conveyed, on behalf of his government and people, deep appreciation for the OECS’ position of solidarity with the Republic of Cuba through official statements of support, and the positions of solidarity of the OECS Member States, against the infamous United States blockade and against the aggressive escalation of the Donald Trump administration.
He noted that, in this latest period, the COVID-19 pandemic imposed many additional challenges, however, Cuba and the OECS have, once again, given a great example of cooperation in an area as fundamental as health. “At the call of the OECS and its Member States, Cuba quickly organised the Henry Reeve Emergency Medical Brigades, which in a short period of time came to join the fight against the pandemic. Today, we can say with some pride and with some satisfaction that these brigades have been present in all the independent member countries of the OECS and also in the territories of Martinique, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and Montserrat.”
Ambassador Marin highlighted the fundamental role that the historical leader of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro, played in establishing the principles of friendship, solidarity and cooperation which have guided Cuba’s relationship with the Caribbean. He reaffirmed Cuba’s willingness to continue strengthening the relationship with the OECS and its Member States in areas of health, education, construction, infrastructure, disaster resilience, sports, and the continued exploration of greater opportunities particularly in the areas of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology products.
Highlights from the tributes dedicated to H. E. Alejandro Simancas Marin are as follows:
Hon. Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia: “King Solomon says in the Book of Proverbs, a friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. These words were made clear when Cuba showed one of the deepest acts of brotherhood toward Saint Lucia.
Mere days after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, Cuba deployed a delegation of 113 healthcare professionals to help the people of Saint Lucia in our fight against this virus. This was despite Cuba’s own need at home.
Excellency, you were instrumental in ensuring that we received the delegation of professionals, at a time when we needed them the most, when Saint Lucia was transitioning from the Victoria hospital to the Owen King EU hospital and establishing a respiratory hospital. We are immensely grateful.
Today, I remember the strong ties that have existed between our countries, since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1979. We are coming off the heels of celebrating Saint Lucia’s 42nd anniversary of independence, and it would be remiss of me not to thank you and your government for the role that you have played in the development of our people.”
His Excellency Easton Taylor-Farrell, Premier of Montserrat: “Excellency, I want to thank you personally and on behalf of the government and people of Montserrat for the important role you played in making it possible for the Cuban Medical Brigade to come to Montserrat to assist us in the fight against COVID-19 and our health care in general.
It was truly your persistence and invaluable work as Cuban Ambassador to Saint Lucia and the Eastern Caribbean that brought about this proud moment of cooperation and Caribbean solidarity.
His Excellency Andrew Fahie, Premier of the British Virgin Islands: “I first met Ambassador Marin in May of 2020 via video conference, while we, the Virgin Islands, were in the midst of a lockdown during the early stages of the pandemic.
It was late at night and the Director General of the OECS and Ambassador Marin were making time to consider the situation of the Associate Member States.
Since then, we have shared the historical occasion of welcoming the members of the Cuban Medical Brigade to the Virgin Islands and they are still supporting us in the management of the pandemic and, I might add, providing us with stellar service. We take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the government and the people of Cuba for their support and solidarity.”
Ambassador Colin Murdoch, Commissioner to the OECS for Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of Hon. Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda: “Twenty years have passed since the first Cuban Medical Brigade came to Antigua and Barbuda. And in a generation, Cuba has gone a long way towards transforming the delivery of health-care in Antigua and Barbuda. We continue to welcome them, and we acknowledge a debt of gratitude to the selfless doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals of Cuba who have come to our assistance in our time of need.
And there has been no greater time of need for us in the OECS than the current global Covid-19 pandemic, which has wrought sickness, death and economic turmoil on a vast scale.
At our request, Cuba responded immediately and dispatched the Henry Reeve International Medical Contingent to Antigua and Barbuda, a 29-member strong medical team specialised in the treatment of infectious diseases.
Cuban support and cooperation has been vital in the OECS response to Covid-19 and has saved us from real disaster.
I take this opportunity, through Ambassador Alejandro Simancas, to convey our sincerest gratitude to the Government and people of Cuba for their solidarity and sacrifice in the face of Covid-19.”
H. E. Lionel Sidney Osbourne, Commissioner to the OECS for St. Kitts and Nevis on behalf of Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis: Each of the Member States of the OECS shares a meaningful relationship with Cuba. Such a relationship is built on this principle of mutual respect, belief in the strong notions of fairness, justice, cooperation and the constant thrust to develop our economies.
By placing an ambassador in Saint Lucia, the government of Cuba has demonstrated its commitment to the ideas stated above, using the OECS Commission as a base and a pivot to conduct its business.”
Hon. Keisal Peters, Minister of State, St. Vincent and the Grenadines on behalf of Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines: “The relationship between the Republic of Cuba and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States has been amplified over the years through the accreditation of ambassadors to our sub-regional bloc, the OECS.
Through the hard work of Ambassadors like His Excellency Alejandro Marin, we have been able to solidify cooperation between our subregion and Cuba, in multiple areas through the signing of agreements.
Today, we have agreements in the sectors of higher education, bio-technological and pharmaceutical industries, public health care, cultural and bi-lateral trade, and I know that the Secretariat at the OECS and Member State governments have been taking full advantage of these agreements through various projects and initiatives that our citizens are currently benefiting from.”
Ambassador Elma Gene Isaac, Commissioner to the OECS for Saint Lucia: We need only look around us, at our healthcare professionals, engineers, and teachers to see the impact that Cuba has had on our region. Thousands of scholarships have been welcomed by our youth, offering an opportunity at attaining a goal that otherwise seemed beyond their reach, particularly due to financial constraints.
The words ‘thank you’ will never suffice to express our gratitude for the Cuban Medical Brigade which arrived at our shores at the onset of the global pandemic, providing assistance to our already stretched medical staff. Ambassador, you were instrumental in ensuring that we received the delegation of professionals at a time when we needed them most and for this we are immeasurably grateful.
We have seen the fruit of our relations in other areas such as trade and commerce, and we look forward to further strengthening and development in these areas for the entire OECS and Cuba.”
The virtual farewell ceremony also featured entertainment interludes, showcasing talent from a diverse group of regional youth. Ambassador Marin and his wife Lourdes welcomed the musical and poetic pieces by Chazzi Desrivieres of Saint Lucia on the steel pan; Spoken word artist Khadijah Halliday, of Grenada and Saint Lucia; and the dance performance choreographed by Desi Brown of Poise, St. Kitts and Nevis.